2014-04-03 / Front Page

Out of their shell

Injured turtle inspires students
By Ben Meiklejohn Staff Writer


Emily Calhoun, education and outreach coordinator at the Center for Wildlife, gave a presentation on turtles to a class of second-graders at Biddeford Primary School. Students were able to pet the shells and back legs of two turtles. (Meiklejohn photo) Emily Calhoun, education and outreach coordinator at the Center for Wildlife, gave a presentation on turtles to a class of second-graders at Biddeford Primary School. Students were able to pet the shells and back legs of two turtles. (Meiklejohn photo) BIDDEFORD – A class of 10 secondgraders learned a valuable lesson about how people can play a role helping wild animals. Biddeford Primary School teacher Lisa Edstrom said her class had been studying sea turtles when the students noticed a photograph of an injured snapping turtle in the Feb. 13 issue of the Courier. The turtle had been recovering at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick since September.

The students decided they wanted to help the turtle get better by raising money for its care, and organized a school-wide book sale. For three days, the children sold books that had been donated by teachers and students in the cafeteria.


Primary School student Cameron Randall checks out a turtle shell brought by the Center for Wildlife. (Meiklejohn photo) Primary School student Cameron Randall checks out a turtle shell brought by the Center for Wildlife. (Meiklejohn photo) Edstrom said her class would have been happy to raise $20, but in the first day, they raised more than $50. In total, the class sold more than 200 books and raised more than $300 for the center.

The image that caught the students’ attention was part of the “Focus On Wildlife” series in the Courier that features pictures of wild animals taken by photographer Chuck Homler. Prints of the photos are sold, with proceeds benefiting the Center for Wildlife.

Homler said he was touched by students’ response to the photograph.

“I’m ecstatic that the picture resonated with these children and that it was a call to action for them to come to the assistance of an animal in need,” Homler said. “I’m blown away by that; I got all choked up when I heard about it.”

In return for the donation, the Center for Wildlife sent Education and Outreach Director Emily Calhoun to the classroom to show the students two of their living “ambassador” turtles. Calhoun said the center’s ambassadors are animals that cannot be returned to the wild and will live the remainder of their lives in the center.

The snapping turtle that inspired the students could not be brought to the classroom because it is recovering, and is also not accustomed to being around large groups of people, Calhoun said. The turtle was brought to the center in September after it was run over by a car. After it healed, it could not be released because it was already in the middle of the turtle’s hibernation season. Calhoun said while staying at the center over the winter, the turtle stopped eating and a small tube had to be surgically implanted into its esophagus, through which the turtle was fed.

“The money those kids raised was very important because it not only paid for all of the turtle’s food, but it covered the cost of some of its care also,” Calhoun said.

In the classroom, the students got to meet two turtles, both approximately 20 years old – Blossm and Ginger. Blossom is a female eastern painted turtle that could live to be nearly 60 years old; Ginger is a male box turtle that could live to be 100 years old.

Calhoun allowed the students to gently touch the turtles’ shells and back legs. Student Sam Hunter said the shells felt soft and could be fragile.

Second-grader Nick Bedard said he and his mother once encountered an injured wild animal on the road.

“One time when I was in preschool, an owl was hurt in the middle of the road with a broken wing,” Bedard said. “We put a towel on the road. My mom called animal control and they put it in a cage and drove off with it.”

The students said they learned that you have to watch the road carefully for animals when riding in a car, and that some animals are meant to live in the wild and don’t make good pets. If an injured animal is found, students said it is important to call for help.

Sharon Buonanno, an educational technician in Edstrom’s class, said the book sale caught the attention of the entire school.

“All the kids came forward to buy books, because they all wanted to give to the turtle,” Buonanno said.

Edstrom said students throughout the school have become invested in the turtle and keep asking how it is doing. Hunter said he will be excited when the snapping turtle is better and can be sent back into the wild.

Calhoun said it was impressive that the students went through all that effort, because snapping turtles have a reputation for being a “mean species.”

To report an injured animal, Calhoun said people can call the Center for Wildlife from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year at 361-1400. Donations may be made at yorkcenterforwildlife.org.

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